Belfast Telegraph

Four-year-old traumatised by bomb blast in west Belfast

By Anne Madden

A four-year-old girl and a pregnant woman narrowly escaped serious injury when a pipe bomb device exploded in the front garden of their home.

Four-year-old Holly Gallagher had been playing with her dog outside her home in St James Park, near the Falls Road on Monday night, just minutes before the device exploded.

Just before 8pm there was a loud bang and a flash that lit up the whole house. Six members of the Cooke and Gallagher family who live at the end terrace house were inside at the time.

The bomb ripped a large hole in a transit van, belonging to Jim Cooke, parked outside the house and bent the iron gate. The door of a Renault Laguna car in the driveway was blown open by the explosion and caught fire.

Holly’s father Damien had just walked in through the front door when the device went off. He rushed out and threw water on the car to put the flames out.

“We are all really shocked,” Mr Gallagher said. “Holly was in a terrible state. We told her it was a firework but she knew it was different. She saw the car burning. My sister-in-law is seven-and-a-half months pregnant. She was also in the house at the time. She was in a terrible state.”

Holly’s mother Ciara said despite the trauma her daughter had gone to school.

“She was very upset last night,” Ciara said. “We had to leave the house last night around midnight when the police forensics team came. We had to take her out of bed but she wanted to go to school today. She loves her school.”

Jim and Marie Cooke have lived in the house for 23 years. They have four daughters and a son and share the house with one of their daughters, Ciara and her husband Damien.

Mr Cooke, who is a builder, said he had no idea why the family were targeted.

“We are not politically involved in anything,” he said. “We are a quiet, hard-working family. We enjoy sports. Two of my daughters play waterpolo for Ireland and my son plays gaelic football.”

His son-in-law Mr Gallagher said he believed it was a case of “mistaken identity”.

A second pipe bomb was discovered on the wall of Mr Shannon’s house shortly after the first pipe bomb exploded. Around 60 families evacuated from their homes took refuge in the West Social Club.

Mr Shannon said this was the third bomb attack on his La Salle Park home where he has lived for 30 years.

He said he believed loyalists were behind the attack but appealed for no retaliation.

The PSNI confirmed that the second device, which did not go off, was a viable bomb.

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